I am asked often to rate a given recruiting class. The thing that I have learned, is that not everyone views a recruiting class the same. There is the obvious bias’s we all have in looking at our own favorite team versus someone else’s team that comes into play. We all tend to look at our team with rose colored glasses which we should all recognize. The less obvious bias we take with us is that we know our players better. We Google them on the internet, follow them through the year, and we talk to coaches (or at least listen/read their comments) once they are signed. Lets face it though we really do not care that much about the other team(s) players.
Once we become invested in our players, they immediately get bump in our mind, sometimes justified and sometimes not. Players who play out of the media spot light, like Montana and Montana State often recruit, never look as good to those simply reading the ESPN/Rivals/Scout reports, as they may look to people who know them and follow them. A player like Griz recruit Michael Wiesner from Walla Walla or Bobcat recruit Shawn Reid from Idaho may look pretty impressive to those of us in Montana but to Big Sky fans at Sac State maybe not so much. Then again, though the same could be said about some of their recruits.
When I look at Montana State and Montana recruits I bring a wealth of knowledge to judging these teams and some bias, but not so much to other Big Sky teams.
The other thing that always seems to get me into trouble when rating or comparing recruiting classes is basically how do you rate a class. There are multiple ways to rate a class and it all depends on your point of view of what you want from a class. When I look at a class the two main things I look at is #1 how much raw talent is in the class and #2 how much will this class impact (make better) next years team. These two ways of looking at a recruiting class could lead two educated evaluator to rate a class very differently. Here is how I look at each method (you may look at differently).
(BTW: I have to call these methods something so I am making up these fancy names)
The Talent Method:
The talent method looks at the pure talent that is being brought in regardless of where the talent is coming from. High school players are judged on different scale than a transfer (junior college or other wise) you add up who has the most talent and that is the best class. Now granted different people may vary on how good a particular player is but in general that is a problem with any method. A high school player may be rated higher than a transfer but the transfer may actually be capable of contributing right away, still the school gets more credit for the high school player because he may have a bigger upside down the line. In my opinion evaluating a recruiting class on the pure talent method shows the long term health of a program, when it comes to players. Talent wins if you are bring in a lot of talent it bodes well for the long term health of the program.
Immediate impact method:
This method is very simple to understand who recruited the class that will make them better next year. A below average to good JC transfer might be rated higher in this method than a very good high school player simply because the JC is more ready to contribute right away. This method will always favor the JC heavy class, over the high school laden class. When you look at the top Big Sky freshman every year, their impact over all is moderate at best. The top JC transfers though make a huge impact. That said if you were to look at the top freshman down the line you are looking at the leagues future starts, that will impact the Big Sky for 2-3 years. The immediate impact method only addresses the following year, and possibly the next. Classes that rank high here but rank low in the talent method make me nervous. If a school needs to replace a lot of seniors you understand addressing immediate needs, but you also need a little balance so you do not get yourself in a constant replacement mode. Still though when you talk to the average fan about a recruiting class they want to know how a class is going to improve next years team.
There is a third consideration that I always work into my evaluation of a recruiting classes of Montana State and Montana. I usually can not do this for other schools. It is how close does the end results of the recruiting class match what the coaches have said there goals were at the beginning of the season.
Meeting recruiting goals:
Meeting recruiting goals tends to tell me how much settling the coaches have had to do during the recruitment season. Coaches will often identify positions and the type of players they want to recruit for the coming year. They may also want do things like get more athletic, add size, recruit geographic areas, or other goals for the year. I think coaches that that identify certain goals at the beginning of the season and follow through, means a lot for the programs and is telling. Things happen during the season that cause coaches revise some goals but when coaches can identify needs and fill them, it says a lot about the health of the program Of course then you can rate how well the coaches did to fill those needs. Did they get a quality player or did they settle. This also goes to how well is a program/team put together, do they have a weakness, can the team run the system the coach wants to run. Some times you need to pass on the more talented player to get the player you need.
When I am asked to give my thoughts on a recruiting class I lean heavily on The Talent Method and the Meeting Goals aspects of recruiting and judging the class on these aspects, but then identify at the end of it all what impact the class will have on the coming year. It is perfectly logical for someone else to judge simply on the impact method, but remember when comparing the different classes against one another unless you are judging them on the same methods (whether it one that I have mentioned or some other) it can be like comparing apples to oranges, neither may be wrong and most likely both are right.